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Shasta Health Officials Advise Caution With Loosened COVID Restrictions

Shasta County moved from the state's purple to red tier on Wednesday, reflecting a decrease in positive cases of COVID-19.
covid19.ca.gov
Shasta County moved from the state's purple to red tier on Wednesday, reflecting a decrease in positive cases of COVID-19.

For the first time in months, residents in Shasta County experienced loosened business restrictions on Wednesday. The change came after the county moved from California’s most restrictive purple tier to the red tier.

Shasta County has shown improvements in coronavirus positivity rates and the local equity metric, which tracks the number of positive COVID cases among disproportionately-impacted communities.

As a result, a variety of businesses can reopen indoors at reduced capacity. That includes restaurants and movie theaters at 25% capacity and gyms at 10% capacity. Retailers can increase operations from 25% to 50% capacity. Higher education institutions can also hold in-person classes at up to 25% capacity.

But public health officials warned that with more infectious strains of the coronavirus circulating in the state, residents should keep social distancing and wearing masks.

“This is not the time to let our guard down,” says Shasta County Public Health Branch Director Robin Schurig. “We don’t want to end up right back in the purple and we don’t want to see a surge in cases followed by hospitalizations and deaths.”

The more transmissible and lethal U.K. coronavirus variant is expected to become the dominant strain of the virus in California in March. A less understood variant that originated in California is also raising concerns among public health officials.

There is no evidence of variants currently circulating in Shasta County, Schurig says, but when they do arrive relaxed public health precautions could lead to an increase in cases and tightened business restrictions.

“Case rates are down in general, along with hospitalization numbers and deaths,” Schurig says. “But with these more infectious variants coming we don’t know how long it’s going to stay this low.”

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.